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Strange bedfellows?

[ 2011-11-25 14:18]     字号 [] [] []  
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Strange bedfellows?

Reader question:

Please explain “strange bedfellows”, as in this sentence - Cooperation and self-interest are strange bedfellows.

My comments:

Cooperation means people working alongside, with and for one another. Self-interest means safeguarding and advancing one’s personal interest, making the most for oneself or, in still plainer words, just being selfish.

Obviously if one chooses to cooperate with another, one cannot always put one’s own self-interest first and foremost. In other words, one must curb one’s desire to gain at one’s partner’s expense.

That’s why it is strange to see “cooperation” and “self-interest” work together for a common cause because these two inherently have nothing in common.

Anyways, the phrase “strange bedfellows” means two people (or things) of totally different qualities and principles working closely together as bedfellows, which is odd (strange) to see. Bedfellows, of course, are people who share the same bed, meaning they must be very close.

We often hear “politicians make strange bedfellows.” That means politicians will do anything to succeed, ready to try all means and measures, fair or foul, including working with their hateful political enemies if they have something to gain from such an alliance.

In other words, it’s pure opportunism on display. In this country, the Communists and the Guomintang, remember? They couldn’t share the same sky, so to speak, but they managed somehow to cooperate not once, not twice but thrice.

And when they did, they made strange bedfellows – and neither had any sleep in peace, you bet.

Naturally that type of fellowship never lasts, as you can imagine.

“Strange bedfellows”, by the way, was coined or at least popularized by none other than the great William Shakespeare. In Tempest (1610), he wrote the famous “misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows”:

Legg’d like a man! and his fins like arms! Warm, o’ my troth! I do now let loose my opinion, hold it no longer: this is no fish, but an islander, that hath lately suffer’d by a thunder-bolt. [Thunder.] Alas, the storm is come again! My best way is to creep under his gaberdine; there is no other shelter hereabout: misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows. I will here shroud till the dregs of the storm be past.

Alright, here are two recent media examples of such odd couples:

1. At first blush, it seemed an odd pairing: Crispin Porter + Bogusky, the ad agency whose calling card was edgy Burger King ads featuring a King with an immobile face, and Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, a product best known as comfort food for kids.

Yet the two admittedly disparate parties made it work. The Kraft brand proved it could adapt to the social media age, and Crispin showed it could work its magic on any brand.

It all started in March 2010, when Kraft brought the agency on board. “We were absolutely looking for a creative approach,” says Noelle O’Mara, senior brand manager on Kraft Mac & Cheese, who dismissed the idea that the two were strange bedfellows. “Over time, this brand really started to stand for kid food, but we felt everyone should feel permission to enjoy it, not just kids.”

- How Kraft Updated Macaroni & Cheese for the Twitter Age, DRGDirect.com, October 7, 2011.

2. As the United States expands its military imprint on the international intervention into Libyan airspace, members of Congress have begun sounding the alarm over the lack of regard being paid by the president to the legal and advisory roles of the legislative branch.

On Sunday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) offered his endorsement for a no fly zone over Libya. Conspicuous in his statement, however, was the threat to disrupt future operations should the president not consult Congress first.

“Before any further military commitments are made,” Boehner said, “the Administration must do a better job of communicating to the American people and to Congress about our mission.”

A top GOP leadership aide clarified that Boehner wasn’t insisting that Obama needed congressional authorization for the use of military force in Libya. “The focus,” said the aide, “is on Congressional consultation.” At an off-camera briefing hours later, National Security Adviser Tom Donilon called such a request “fair” while arguing that it had been met by the president.

But Boehner’s remarks still underscore the domestic political limits Obama faces as he executes, what aides insist will be, a limited, internationally-led military intervention in Libya; which, this weekend, included cruise missile attacks and air strikes. While the majority of lawmakers who have spoken publicly say they support America’s involvement in the U.N.-backed mission (some Republicans wishing it had come sooner), several influential voices have argued -- as Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), Chair of the House Armed Services Committee did -- that the President “has an obligation to explain” operational objectives to Congress.

Lower on the leadership ranks, a strange-bedfellows coalition of progressive-minded pols and Tea Party members has emerged, not only raising doubts about the underlying strategy but the legality of it as well.

“I think [the president] has a duty and an obligation to come to Congress,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah.) told The Huffington Post. “I see no clear and present danger to the United States of America. I just don't. We're in a bit of the fog at the moment as to what the president is trying to ultimately do.”

“In the absence of a credible, direct threat to the United States and its allies or to our valuable national interests, what excuse is there for not seeking congressional approval of military action?” asked Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) in a separate interview. “I think it is wrong and a usurpation of power and the fact that prior presidents have done it is not an excuse.”

Under the War Powers Act of 1973, the president can send U.S. armed forces into conflict only with the authorization of Congress or if the United States is under attack or serious threat. Absent such authorization, however, the president does have a 48-hour window to report about military deployments overseas. While Congress is supposed to be consulted “in every possible instance,” a broadening interpretation of executive powers has greatly diminished its “sign-off” authority.

“More recently, due to an expansive interpretation of the president’s constitutional authority as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and of his inherent powers to use force without Congressional authorization, the President has welcomed support from the Congress in the form of legislation authorizing him to utilize U.S. military forces in a foreign conflict or engagement in support of U.S. interests, but has not taken the view that he is required to obtain such authorization,” reads a March 2007 Congressional Research Service report.

- Obama’s Libya Policy Makes Strange Bedfellows Of Congressional Critics, HuffingtonPost.com, March 20, 2011.



About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.


Jumping on the bandwagon

Cut him down to size?

Bad blood?

Go for broke?

(作者张欣 中国日报网英语点津 编辑陈丹妮)